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  • Writer's pictureJay A. Hines

Summer Road Trip Car Maintenance: Essential Tips to Keep Your Vehicle in Top Shape

Summer is the perfect time for a road trip, and with fuel prices being more affordable than last year, there is likely to be a surge in the number of people preferring to drive instead of flying. According to recent reports, a significant percentage of travelers are planning to hit the road for their vacations.

Proper car maintenance is crucial to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable journey, especially during the hotter months. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss vital summer road trip car maintenance tips to keep your vehicle in top shape.

1. Conduct a Thorough Visual Inspection

Before embarking on your adventure, it is essential to examine your vehicle both inside and out. A visual inspection can help identify any potential issues that may cause problems during your trip.

a. Wiper Blades and Mirrors

Inspect your wiper blades for any signs of damage, such as tears or brittleness. If necessary, replace them with a new set. Ensure that your outside mirrors are in good working order, and check underneath the car for any oil leaks.

b. Lights and Signals

Enlist the help of someone to test your turn signals, headlights, brake lights, hazard lights, and bright lights. Turn on the ignition while your helper stands at the front and then the rear of the car to confirm that everything is functioning correctly.

c. Unusual Noises and Warning Lights

Listen for any strange noises coming from your vehicle. If any warning lights appear, it could indicate issues with the fuel system or dirty fuel injectors. Adding fuel injector cleaner to the gas tank before your road trip is a good preventive measure.

d. Air Conditioning

An efficient air conditioning system is crucial for a comfortable summer road trip. Test your vehicle's AC and, if it is not providing a cool breeze, have a mechanic inspect the system.

2. Examine the Battery

The battery is an essential component of your vehicle, and it can be affected by extreme temperatures. Inspect the battery terminals for any signs of corrosion, which can decrease its lifespan and hinder your car's performance.

a. Cleaning the Battery Terminals

To clean the battery terminals, disconnect the battery and sprinkle baking soda over the terminals. Dampen the baking soda with a small amount of water, and once it starts bubbling, it indicates that the corrosion has been neutralized. Gently scrub the terminals with an old toothbrush.

b. Battery Load Test

Have a garage perform a quick load test on your vehicle's battery to ensure that it can recharge and hold the charge correctly.

3. Check the Tires

Properly inflated and well-maintained tires are crucial for a safe and comfortable road trip. Underinflated tires can lead to poor fuel economy, reduced handling, and increased risk of tire blowouts.

a. Tire Pressure

Before embarking on your journey, check your vehicle's tire pressure and adjust it according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

b. Tire Tread

Inspect the tire tread for any signs of uneven wear or damage. If the tread depth is below the recommended level, consider replacing the tires.

c. Tire Rotation and Alignment

Regular tire rotation and alignment can help prolong the life of your tires and ensure a smoother ride. Consult your vehicle's owner's manual for specific recommendations on tire rotation frequency and alignment.

4. Check the Fluid Levels

Your vehicle relies on various fluids to function correctly, and it is essential to monitor their levels regularly.

a. Engine Oil

Check the engine oil level and top it off if necessary. If it is time for an oil change, have it done before your road trip.

b. Coolant

Inspect the coolant level in your vehicle's radiator and ensure that it is within the recommended range. Top off with a coolant mixture if needed.

c. Transmission and Brake Fluids

Check the transmission and brake fluid levels, and refill as necessary.

5. Inspect the Belts and Hoses

Belts and hoses play an essential role in your vehicle's functionality, and it is crucial to ensure that they are in good condition.

a. Serpentine Belt

Check the serpentine belt for any signs of wear or damage, such as cracks or fraying. If needed, have it replaced.

b. Hoses

Inspect the hoses for any cracks, leaks, or bulges. Replace any damaged hoses to prevent potential issues during your road trip.

6. Test the Brakes

A proper braking system is vital for a safe summer road trip. Inspect your vehicle's brake pads, rotors, and fluid to ensure optimal performance.

a. Brake Pads and Rotors

Check the brake pads and rotors for any signs of wear or damage. Replace them if necessary.

b. Brake Fluid

Inspect the brake fluid level and top it off if needed. If the fluid appears dirty or contaminated, consider having a brake fluid flush performed.

7. Clean and Organize Your Vehicle

Cleaning and organizing your car before a road trip can make the journey more enjoyable and help you locate essential items easily.

a. Interior Cleaning

Vacuum the carpets and seats, wipe down the dashboard and other surfaces, and clean the windows.

b. Exterior Cleaning

Wash and wax your vehicle's exterior to protect it from the elements and improve its appearance.

c. Organization

Organize your belongings, ensuring that essential items, such as maps, snacks, and emergency supplies, are easily accessible.

8. Prepare an Emergency Kit

An emergency kit is an essential component of summer road trip car maintenance. It should include items such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, spare tire, jack, and basic tools.

9. Update Your Vehicle's Documentation

Before setting off on your summer road trip, ensure that your vehicle's documentation, such as registration, insurance, and owner's manual, is up-to-date and readily available.

10. Plan Your Route and Fuel Stops

Planning your route and identifying fuel stops along the way can help you stay on track and avoid running out of gas during your journey.

a. Navigation

Ensure that your GPS device or smartphone navigation app is updated with the latest maps.

b. Fuel Stops

Identify fuel stops along your route and plan your refueling stops accordingly.


Proper summer road trip car maintenance is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. By following these car maintenance tips and preparing your vehicle for the trip, you can help prevent unexpected breakdowns and make the most of your summer adventure. Happy travels!

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